Chinese Artist Paints Beautiful Portraits of Tech Founders Who Inspire Her

Chenyu Zheng, who is based in San Fancisco, is the artist behind the series of acrylic tech entrepreneur portraits called “Tech Giants Art Project. She was inspired by these innovative leaders and wanted to instill the same spirit of disruption and creation in her own work.

“These tech entrepreneurs have built products we use daily, persevered to succeed, and fundamentally disrupted the way we communicate, work and live.”

Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman of Alibaba Group

Zheng, who is originally from Wuhu in Anhui Province, came to the U.S. for boarding school when she was 16. She grew up learning traditional Chinese watercolors and then studied German Expressionism. Her studies would later influence her subject choice, style and use of materials.

Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of SpaceX and Co-founder and CEO of Tesla Motors

“My art teacher and faculty advisor Mr. Noyes helped me to discover and to develop my passion for art: he trained me to have a strong foundation in 2D design, color and perspective theory, but encouraged me to pursue my own original style and techniques.”  

Mark Zuckerberg, Co-founder and CEO of Facebook

In her “Tech Giants Art Project”, Zheng applies her knowledge of social media and startup methodologies to create portraits of well-known figures such as Jack Ma, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

According to Women 2.0, Zheng uses “minimal viable painting,” crowdsourcing feedback and iterations to make her finished product.

Time Lapse of Drew Houston (Dropbox) #techgiants painting from Apple Sister on Vimeo.

Among the tech innovators she admires most is Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey, who she had a chance to meet at Square’s headquarters in San Francisco in 2011. She was motivated by Dorsey’s advice to act upon your ideas.

Jack Dorsey, Co-founder and CEO of Twitter

“At Startup School 2013, Jack Dorsey noted the similarities between Henri’s descriptions of creating art and what it’s like to be a startup founder; to quote, ‘We work so hard to get some sort of acceptance in the world, to get some sort of positive feedback. We look at others, who seem to reach their success so quickly. But it takes years and years, and patience.’”

Nate Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb co-founders

During her time in New York, Zheng displayed her portraits at the Highline, a revitalized old railroad track that has been transformed into an artsy public park. Zheng, who considers herself a visual storyteller, wants to inspire people to act on their dreams.

Drew Houston, Founder and CEO of Dropbox

She says one of the most rewarding things about Tech Giants was hearing that her work is motivating others to pursue their ambitions. She said:

One friend asked me to make a tutorial on Minimal Viable Painting and she started painting again. One friend got his art business off the ground. I’ve been invited to speak at tech meet-ups in NYC, as well as in China, and I’m currently writing a Chinese column on Tech Giants to inspire young people in China. It’s heartwarming to see the impact of this project go beyond the English-speaking community to Chinese youths.”

David Karp, Founder and CEO of Tumblr

Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder of Warby Parker Eyewear

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO and Google’s first female engineer

Reid Hoffman, Co-founder of LinkedIn

Sam Lessin, Creator of the Facebook Timeline

Jenn Hyman, Co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway

Dennis Crowley, Co-founder of Foursquare


Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon

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